The winners and losers from the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix
All that testing, practice and thousands of words analysing it all, but in the end, the 2023 Formula 1 Bahrain Prix was a microcosm of the 2022 season.
Max Verstappen using F1 as his personal play-thing, Sergio Perez slightly behind, Mercedes in trouble and Ferrari suffering reliability problems in the race. At least there wasn’t a strategic faux pas from the Scuderia.
Save for Fernando Alonso energising a rather dull race, it all feels like a continuation of 2022 at the business end. Indeed, Verstappen and Red Bull are already being tipped to do the impossible and win every race.
Anyhow, RacingNews365.com has taken a look at some of the stories from the Bahrain GP to come up with some winners and losers.
Winner – Red Bull and Max Verstappen
Verstappen only appeared on the world feed at the start, when he pitted and for the final couple of laps as he took the 36th chequered flag of his career. He’s now just five wins behind Ayrton Senna and fifth in the all-time wins list.
At 25 years of age.
He was able to guide the Bull around Sakhir, not pushing too much, having scampered at the start and was not seen thereafter. It’s just about as crushing of a performance in a season opener as you can possibly get.
Yes there are 22 races and six Sprints still to go, but even at this stage, many will believe that Max Verstappen has one hand on the title. It’s going to take a herculean effort from someone to stop him.
What did he say? “I think we have a good race package. It will depend race-to-race, but we can definitely fight with this.”
The only fighting Verstappen might be doing in 2023 is with himself.
Loser – Ferrari
Charles Leclerc did well to muscle past Perez at the start to pinch second place, adding the faintest whiff of a race to proceedings, but when he was five seconds down after just four laps, he might as well have waved the white flag then.
Attention turned to the battle for second with Perez, with the Red Bull having the advantage when the Ferrari PU shutdown on Lap 41 of 57.
Not for the first time, the equipment failed the man. Ferrari need to do the basics if they want to beat Verstappen – they could start by finishing.
What did he say? “I cannot say that it feels good. Obviously, there was quite a lot of work done on that [over the winter], but we need to keep working because first race and first reliability problems [is] not good.”
© RN365/Michael Potts
Winner – Aston Martin
Somewhere in Switzerland, there’s a 35-year-old either sitting at home with a wry smile or frown on his face.
More than likely it is the former as Sebastian Vettel’s old team proved they are firmly in the hunt for P2 in the standings.
A sensational drive by Fernando Alonso delivered third place – just the second podium for Aston in their F1 history – after Vettel in Baku 2021.
Elsewhere, a courageous drive by Lance Stroll ended with sixth place and within sight of Lewis Hamilton, the victim of Alonso’s overtake of the season candidate at Turn 10. Only against a driver of Hamilton’s calibre would Alonso have attempted such a move.
What did Alonso say? “Finishing on the podium in the first race of the year is just amazing. What Aston Martin did over the winter to have the second best car at race one is just unreal.”
Loser – Mercedes
That all-conquering Mercedes juggernaut is no more as they continue to flap about as midfield fodder while someone else makes it all look just a bit too easy.
Everything they used to do hit gold, hit bullseye every single time. No more.
This is a team lacking confidence in itself as key personnel move on and they try to reinvent themselves. It will take time.
Since when have Mercedes wrote themselves off at the first race, and actually meant it?
Since when have Mercedes admitted to needing to ditch a car concept after one qualifying session, let alone a race?
The Mercedes era is firmly over and it isn’t coming back anytime soon. This is the reality now, fifth and seventh, and both drivers being beaten by a customer team in Aston.
What did Toto Wolff say? “That was one of our worst days in racing. It was not good at all; we are lacking pace front, right, and centre.
“The Aston Martins are very fast, and the Red Bull is just on a different planet. It hurts that they are so far ahead; it reminds me of our best years where we put one second on everyone else.”
Winner – Pierre Gasly
After including Gasly in the ‘loser’ section for qualifying, it is only right to play up an excellent drive to ninth.
The Alpine triggered the first round of pit-stops on Lap 9, and then undercut Yuki Tsunoda on Lap 25.
He benefitted from the Leclerc VSC to dive in for a set of Softs and then set off after the top 10.
Gasly hunted down Alex Albon for two points, nailing a sweet move at Turn 1 to take the position.
A morale-building performance from the new recruit at Alpine.
What did he say? “It was always going to be challenging to take points today, but we had confidence in the performance of our race car and we knew we had a chance to score points with a good strategy.”
Loser – Esteban Ocon
Where to start? Esteban Ocon’s Bahrain GP started to go south even before the race started.
He overshot the grid-box, was given a 5s penalty, didn’t serve it correctly, was given a 10s penalty, was caught speeding in the pit lane while serving the second penalty and then received another 5s punishment for the speeding.
All in all, file under ‘one to forget’, move on and laugh about it at the end of the year.
What did he say? “We made too many operational mistakes and it has cost us today. On a positive note, our race pace and performance was good.”
Winner – Williams
Pre-season testing had Williams somewhere near the back, certainly not rooted at the foot of the field like years past, but not that far from it.
However, in Bahrain, the team were optimistic throughout, with Alex Albon adamant that he could have made Q3 without a broken front wing.
And he backed that up on race day with an assured drive to P10, picking up one point.
Even better was the strong race performance of debutant Logan Sargeant.
He more than held his own and came home in a decent 12th place.
Early days yet, but signs of something positive are just sprouting at Grove.
What did Albon say? “We were out of position on the grid but we had a really good start and then had our elbows out at a couple of moments during the race.”
Loser – McLaren
Much like Ocon, McLaren are probably glad this one is over.
Lando Norris pitted six times – once every 10 laps – due to a pneumatic pressure leak and so was firmly at the back very early on.
As for rookie Oscar Piastri, his race ended early with an electrical problem which was attempted to be fixed with a steering wheel change.
It just adds to the gloom at Woking after a poor pre-season hampered by mechanical problems with the wheel brows and an underdeveloped concept. The team say that an upgrade package coming soon will get them back to where they should have been at the start of the year.
What did Norris say? “We tried to stay in it for as long as possible just in case there was a Safety Car or something and we might have had a chance at the end.”